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I read on https://www.borderreport.com/regions/mexico/chocolate-car-crackdown-underway-in-tijuana-starting-at-the-border/ (mirror) (published on 2020-08-18) regarding the US <-> Mexico land border:

In addition to regulating so-called “chocolate cars” in Baja California, Mexican customs officials have agreed to start refusing anyone driving one from entering the country.

“Chocolate cars” is a term used to describe illegally imported vehicles with U.S. license plates driven by residents south of the border. Many people in cities like Tijuana buy cars in border states such as California and never register them in Mexico, saving money on the fees. In turn, the country also loses money on these vehicles. But from now on, vehicles driven into Mexico will be subject to inspections at the border and will not be allowed to enter the country.

I'm unsure what residents mean in that context: do only Mexican residents with a California license plate get refused entry or does that apply to US residents, and is the refusal systematic or unlikely?

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    You will not be denied entry for driving a California plated vehicle into Baja. As many as 70000 vehicles cross the border daily, at least half of these have California plates, and we don't see these being denied entry. Plus you're not a resident of Mexico. – Midavalo Sep 30 at 17:23
  • @Midavalo Got it, thanks. I wonder what the article is talking about and who get stopped, if any. – Franck Dernoncourt Sep 30 at 17:28
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    I'd be surprised if this is ever handled at the border - it would be impossible to manage unless they start doing passport control stopping every car. I think it's more likely to be picked up by police checkpoints or stops to check status. We have been stopped at checkpoints where we noticed only US plated cars are stopped, and the police have mentioned we're "chocolate" - living in Mexico but driving US plated car. That said, personally I think they need to change their import requirements before the problem can be solved - we can't import our car because it's too old so what can we do?! – Midavalo Sep 30 at 17:31
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    at police checkpoint or at the border? At checkpoint they usually ask for licence (and are intrigued when I pull out a NZ licence) and ask where we live and where we've been or are going to. Usually pretty quick, never had issues. Some roads have permanent checkpoints so have been stopped hundreds of times to the point where the officers start to recognise us 😁 – Midavalo Sep 30 at 17:41
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    at the border it's usually little said, a quick search of what you're bringing in and away we go. Also never any issues so far. Haven't been stopped at the border for over 2 years – Midavalo Sep 30 at 17:42
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If you take a US registered vehicle to Mexico, you can drive it temporarily in the Mexico Free or Border Zone as a temporary visitor (FMM), Temporary Resident, Temporary Resident Student, or Mexican citizens living abroad. Everywhere else in Mexico, you have to get a Temporary Vehicle Import Permit for Mexico through the Banjercito website. Your immigration status still applies to the TVIP.

Regardless, you have to purchase Mexico auto insurance from a Mexican insurance company like Mexpro to be able to drive legally anywhere in Mexico. Your US auto insurance only covers you for the first 5-25 miles (dependent on which insurance carrier you use) outside of US territory in Mexico. Some insurance carriers will specifically exclude coverage outside of the country all together.

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  • "Your US auto insurance only covers you for the first 5-25 miles" - additional to this, US insurance policies are not recognised when it comes to requirement for holding auto insurance in Mexico (well, at least in Baja California). This can lead to trouble if you're stopped by police or in an accident. – Midavalo Oct 2 at 14:27
  • @Midavalo - Exactly. Depending on your carrier, your US car insurance will cover you for a limited distance. But, even this coverage does not qualify to meet the federal liability coverage requirements for Mexico. It may cover you, the other cars involved, and injured parties. But, it is still not considered acceptable to make you road-legal. Although, once you meet the Mexico liability requirements, it may cover your vehicle for theft and damage on a limited basis. This is a change in the law from 2013 that became mandatory for all vehicles in Mexico January of 2019. – Dean F. Oct 2 at 18:38

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